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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights

The data collected in these articles comes from interviews with 12 Team Ranked players in SWTOR and from observing team’s successful or not so successful communication on streams. The information given is in accordance to patch 4.0.3. The players interviewed for these articles are:

Dakaru from TRE & TOFN
Gerikke from TRE & TOFN
Gladias from Harbinger
Jaq’n from TRE & TOFN
Larsson from TRE & TOFN
Molra from TOFN
Morvin from TOFN
Myzran from TRE & TOFN
Naid from TOFN
Terrikus from T3 & TOFN
Vara from Harbinger
Zherio from TRE & TOFN

These players were chosen to be interviewed for the purpose of representing a variety of roles, classes and levels of experience. This is to get more varied points of view in order to better understand the current state of team ranked in SWTOR. I conducted these interviews and watched many more hours of team ranked streams than I’d like to admit, all because I found myself curious of the ways in which communication might affect the win/loss ratio of team ranked arenas. In many situations in life it’s hard to measure the value of effective communication and so it is regularly underestimated. In team ranked however the positive impact of effective communication is suddenly clear when the difference between a win and a loss often comes down to something as small as a miscommunication regarding a stun. That said, when it comes to the two competences required (mechanical and communication skills) it needs to be said that they are completely co-dependent on each other. You cannot be great with only an understanding of one of the two. At the moment the pool of active team ranked players is very small which results in an intimidating environment for new players to enter. The purpose of this series of articles is to give insight to new players in the hope that it will make their learning curve a little less steep.

Because of the amount of information I ended up gathering I decided to split this article into five parts. These will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Below you will find the links to each individual article.

1. Setup and strategy
2. Healing, tanking and deal damage in Team Ranked
3. Team Ranked Communication
4. Team Ranked Communication: What not to do
5. I want to try to make a ranked team but I have no experience. Where should I start?

Thank you to all of the players interviewed and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write these articles. Also, to the friends who helped me, a very special thanks to you for always being supportive through all of my crazy projects.

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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 5 – I want to try to make a ranked team but I have no experience. Where do I start?

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This is part five of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into five parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

I want to try to make a ranked team but I have no experience. Where do I start?
In accordance to patch 4.0.3

In this fifth and last part of the series I will be going through advice from myself and the people I have interviewed in regards to what strategy to start out with as well as what classes to choose for each role. I will also go through some other basics such as how to set and use your focus target. Make sure to check out the list of team ranked streamers in the end of this article. If you have any questions regarding the terminology or anything else then please don’t hesitate to comment below or contact me here.

What strategy do we start with?
There are many different options revolving around the classes you are going to choose. That said, if we begin by zooming out and looking at the greater picture then we can start discussing strategy on a more general level. All classes have different specs which allow very different type of gameplay. The first question here becomes: Burst or pressure?

The Burst Approach
Hard swap is a term used to describe a team synchronizing their stuns, interrupts and their damage in a way that will allow them to swiftly burst an enemy target down while the enemy tank is incapacitated and unable to switch guard. It requires a lot of communication and synchronization between team members since the strategy revolves around creating a perfect moment to swap and burst a target. The hard swap tactic was discovered and mainly used for team ranked in older patches. The later patches introduced a shorter cooldown on breaker making this strategy less viable. Today you can still use a hard swap tactic but you need to adapt it to the current meta which is all about wearing the enemy healer down by splitting your damage on several targets. The way the hard swap has been adjusted to work in this patch is to go for constant kill pressure. Split damage and quick switches pressure the tank to focus more of their attention on guardswaps and positioning. CC’s are used to force defensive cooldowns and eventually lead to a kill. This type of strategy relies on all burst specs. Even your tank is likely to have to focus damage with you during the hard swaps to be able to get a kill since the sorcerer/sage heals are so strong at the moment. For inexperienced team ranked players this might not be the best way to go.

All players interviewed agreed that the best thing for new players is to start off with pressure comps (setups with focus on damage over time, i.e. DoT specs). This is because the strategy that comes with a burst comp can be straining to pull off even for experienced players who are not used to playing together. Burst classes and specs also have distinct weaknesses that can be exploited by more experienced players. In order for this to work your teamwork needs to be really sharp. Since effective communication in team ranked takes time to develop it is to your own advantage to start out with a composition that puts less strain on your communication and gives it room to improve.

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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 4 – Team Ranked Communication: What not to do

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This is part fourth of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into four parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

Team Ranked Communication:
What not to do

This article will be using terminology explained in part 3 of this series. If you haven’t read it yet and find yourself lost follow the link above.

 

What not to say in a ranked arena match:

Example 2: The Team With the Many Target Callers
A team unused to playing together are trying out new setups. From time to time there is a lot of noise in the channel consisting of several people calling out tactics and plans of actions simultaneously (mistake no. 1). Mass taunts are being overlapped (mistake no. 2) and no one is interrupting the healer (mistake no. 3). At a crucial moment when the slinger of the team is very low on health the tank is distracted by communicating tactics with the other DPS. When the healer tries to call the tanks attention to the slinger needing a guard there is noise in the channel and the tank doesn’t hear him (mistake no. 4). By the time the slinger finally receives a guard it is too late and the enemy team kill him through the guard.

Mistake no. 1 – Agree on general tactics before going into the arena. Don’t change tactics mid game. If your team exists of a lot of personalities who like calling targets then decide on a target caller before queuing. All of the above is to avoid clogging up the communication channel with noise which is guaranteed to result in misunderstandings.
Mistake no. 2 – Always communicate and rotate mass taunts in order to maximise the damage reduction your taunts offer.
Mistake no. 3 – Don’t make it easy for the enemy healer to keep his team alive this way. Communicate interrupts. Agree on who will interrupt the healer in what order.
Mistake no. 4 – Reduce the noise in the channel!

 

What to avoid
Both Molra and Terrikus point out the importance of having an articulated plan before going into an arena. Don’t disrupt your focus by starting to question your strategy in the middle of the arena, you can do that after. Play it through and learn from your mistakes. In my interview with Vara he also cautions new teams against giving up on any one strategy too quickly. Just because it didn’t work the first time doesn’t mean that it’s an invalid strategy.

On the topic of what not to say during a ranked arena match, Gladias tells me:

“There’s a lot of stuff. I know this because I’ve done it myself. You should never yell at your team for an example. It demoralises them. It depends what kind of personalities you have on your team of course, some are fine but others it will really dishearten them. When you do that the player will just start playing worse so just speak calmly and maintain it – which is where I have to take a leaf out of my own book.” – Gladias

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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 3 – Team Ranked Communication

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This is part three of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into five parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

Team Ranked Communication
“If you have two teams of equal skill the one with the better communication will always win.” – Gladias

 

Let me start by saying that from the streams I have watched it is clear that there is a direct correlation between miscommunications and a team’s win/loss ratio. Let me give you one example of what I have observed.

Example 1: The case of the long lost carbonize
A double PT team starts out with the upper hand, pushing their opponents into a defensive playstyle. Without any warning PT no. 1 call out “carbonizing, follow up” (mistake no. 1). PT no. 2 says “I’m mezzed, can’t carbo yet” (mistake no. 2). After the mezz is over PT no. 2 carbonizes anyway, sure they lost a little momentum by that failed double carbo but they will get the next one. They keep up really good play and by the time PT no. 1’s carbo is back up again they are almost close to a kill. “Carbonizing, follow up” says PT no. 1 again without warning (mistake no. 3). PT no. 2 says in frustration “Dude, my carbo isn’t up yet”. They lose their second double carbo window and start becoming pressured by the other team who has recovered health and is now playing aggressively. The players of the team with the failed carbos becomes overwhelmed and start exhausting their defensive cooldowns after which they are forced to use their next carbos defensively to survive. The moral of this story is nicely expressed as the team with the failed carbos lose the round to a team of a lot less experienced players than themselves.

Mistake no. 1 – Prepare your team in advance for important moments like carbonizes or switches by saying “I’m going to carbonize in a second, you ready?”
Mistake no. 2 – Call out when you’re mezzed
Mistake no. 3 = Mistake no. 1

This is a very clear example of miscommunication affecting the win/loss ratio of team ranked. Next I will briefly go into the basics of communication theory and how it relates to team ranked. If you don’t want to understand the why’s but simply want to know what to do and what not to do then you can jump ahead to “Communicating effectively with your team”.

Communication always fails!
Finnish scholar Osmo Antero Wiio coined 8 laws commonly referred to as “Wiio’s laws”. These are humoristically formulated serious observations about how human communication always fails – except rare occasion when it might succeed by accident. Though Wiio’s laws are entertainingly pessimistic there’s undeniable truth behind them. There are so many more ways a sentence or even a word can be interpreted than you and I comprehend when we say it out loud. We always assume that people understand what we are saying in the way that we intended them to.

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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 2 – Healing, tanking and dealing damage in Team Ranked

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This is part two of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into five parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

Healing, tanking and dealing damage in Team Ranked
In accordance to patch 4.0.3


 

The role of a tank
SWTOR has a unique guard mechanic which allows tanks to have a significant impact in PvP. Ignoring a good tank, as is done in many other games, can make getting a kill close to impossible. This guard mechanic is what gives the tank so much power but also a heavy responsibility. Every single guard swap has the potential to save a life or condemn one. This is what makes the role an essential part of any team yet the number of players wanting to tank for team ranked are few. The latest changes to the meta has forced the tanks into an even more offensive role since the sage healers are so powerful. It is the one role where the player needs to be very aware of both the offensive strategy and the defensive status of his team. The DPS and healer can get away with having more of a tunnel-vision mindset to getting that kill or keeping everyone alive, but a tank cannot. This balance between a defensive and offensive playstyle is something that new tanks are often overwhelmed by.

“My team decided to go with an aggressive strategy with mostly dps gear on the tank.  Due to the strength of sorc healers in the current meta too many games were going to acid and we were losing interest. A win after multiple acid rounds does not feel much more rewarding than a loss. By going with aggressive gear and strategy, rounds tend to end a lot more quickly. While using this strategy I rely more on my team members to notify me of imminent threats so I can focus on offensive pressure. It’s important to discuss with your teammates what you expect from them and what they can expect from you before you even enter the arena. You want to surprise your opponents, not your teammates.” – Jaq’n

Like Jaq’n you might feel that in order to have kill pressure in this patch you have to give up some defensive play. This has consequences for the tank playstyle. One of these consequences is that positioning for the tank has become more difficult since where you are on the map determines the effectiveness of your different options to play defensively or offensively. In some ways tanking in team ranked is the most challenging role yet many feel it’s also the least rewarding since a tank’s skill is hard to measure in numbers. Though the effects of a good tank is obvious to all those who play with him, the servers often lack them since it requires a very specific type of personality to get a sense of gratification from it.

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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 1 – Set up and Strategy

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This is part one of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into five parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

Setup and Strategy:
In accordance to patch 4.0.3

Like chess, team ranked is about being proactive in the sense that you need to be predicting the behaviour of your opponent. Unlike chess you have a split second to make a judgment call and all you have to guide you are cues such as cooldowns on breakers, defensive abilities and the enemy team’s stuns etc.  New teams tend to be reactive by nature but the truly successful teams are proactive by choice. These players don’t just have good reflexes which help them quickly react. They also have enough experience to alert them to possible upcoming dangers and opportunities. The less experienced players will see the vast amount of abilities that can be used at any given time as overwhelming but as you encounter these situations again and again it becomes clear that the amount of effective moves at any specific moment are quite limited. This allows the players to be more extrapolative in their playstyle and their choices can be made more decisively even under pressure.

 

Understanding your composition
Understanding the strengths and the weaknesses of your own composition is one of the first things you need to focus on no matter what setup you choose. This is something Morvin from the <FOXHOUND> ranked team emphasizes in his interview with me.

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SWTOR: A New Hope

Saturday afternoon and I’m sat at my desk playing SWtor once again, when there’s a knock at the door…
“Uncle Marty!!!”, my nephew exclaims enthusiastically as I open the door, before he bounds in with a barrage of information specifying the events of the past few hours from the wonderful perspective of a 5 year old’s fruitful mind.

After going to shut down my pc to prepare myself for the obligatory Lego building session, I hear from behind me Layton’s curious enquiry when he glances at my screen. “Is that Star Wars?, now you can imagine I’m totally ready to nerd out now, already a fan of other things all star wars related I ask myself the question “Is he ready to play an mmo?”
I hit escape, go to settings>enable profanity filter. “So you wanna make a character Layton?”, the high five and grin that stretches across his face in response is genuinely heart-warming!

“So what character do you want to make?” I ask, “A Jedi!!” he replies, and proceeds to wave his arms around making the clashing & humming sounds of his ‘Air lightsaber’ moves. We make some modifications to his characters appearance, which he is keen to make look like a grown up version of himself. “Time to name him now dude, what shall we call him?”, “erm…. I like painting, so let’s call him ‘Paint’”. Seems as good as any other name I think so we enter it but the name is unavailable… I suggest that as play on his surname we call him “Bringonthepayne” after trying many more taken character names, he agrees and proceeds to vocalise his new creations name with glee!

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Maintaining a Gaming Community

What makes gaming communities strong? Why are we drawn to them? How do they tie in with culture and sub cultures? These are questions I’ve found myself wondering about lately. When I entered the world of online gaming I got to discover an online community that fascinated me. Gamers are very interesting and often a lot of fun to be around. These are educated, clever and entertaining individuals with wit and they keep things fresh when the games you play sometimes get a little stale. The stereotype of a sweaty, smelling basement dweller has, or should have been extinct a long time ago. Their creativity is not just evident from the innovative use of abbreviation and curses these players use to insult each other. Look at Minecraft and the worlds that these gamers create. Look at the fan art, the dedicated blogs and the YouTube channels made about games. I repeat: gamers are creative. They are also helpful. For every immature troll there is a friendly person who is always willing to lend a helping hand to someone who’s stuck or is looking for advice. As for the immature ones who are so very creative with their cursing, trust me, they have their place in this community as much as anyone. This is something I have recently come to understand.

THE CONTRADICTION

For online multiplayer games especially there needs to exist strong (ideally conflicting) sub cultures and personalities. Why? Because most of these games are built upon winning or losing. The community’s part in this is to define the value of  victory or success in relation to the rest of the player base which is vital for maintaining interest in the game. That’s why competitiveness plays such a large role in how strong these gaming communities are. A perfect example can be found in Mylex Asheron’s Call post:

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Knights of the Fallen Empire and how we got here

As I step into the story-driven adventure SWTOR has provided me with I can’t help but fall in love with the plot of this new expansion. Through BioWare-style cinematic storytelling we are offered a high quality narrative filled with well rounded characters, comic relief, dynamic conflicts of interest and many twists and turns in the story. This kind of single player like story telling is new for an MMO and we are all watching with excitement to see what happens once the chapters are completed. Will people stay for the end game? For the community? Is SWTOR taking a chance on a new brave concept or just repeating old mistakes? Before we return to dig deeper into the new expansion, bear with me for a minute while I quickly reminisce over how we ended up where we are in SWTOR today…

Developed by BioWare Austin, SWTOR was first announced on October 21, 2008. In 2009 the game’s first cinematic trailer “Deceived“, made byDeceived Blur Studio, was presented at a press conference and in September the same year BioWare began accepting applications for testers from the gaming community. Within minutes, the official website was down due to the high traffic. The increase in visitors was accommodated and a second  and third cinematic trailer (“Hope” and “Return“) were released. Books were also published to increase the hype. This was a great way to promote the game to Star Wars hungry fans and within three days of its launch SWTOR had one million subscribers, making it the fastest growing MMO ever seen. However, this thrilling success did not last long and in the following months the game lost a fair share of its subscribers. What happened?

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Extra Life – Gaming and increasing awareness

Throughout the short period of time that I have been gaming I’ve seen announcements for many charity events. In the very start this seemed like a strange combination. Gaming and charity? Really? We often learn from society to be skeptical to the world of (especially online) gaming. We hear much of the negative effects. The people who are a part of online communities that they genuinely care about are often made to feel foolish by people who are not a part of this environment and who will heavily judge those who are. I’ve written before about the positive effects of gaming for the individual. But is there more to it?

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